BULGARIA POLITICS

REFORMS TO BE CONTINUED?

During 2021 Bulgarians have so far gone to the polls twice, in April and in July. On both occasions the sort of parliament they elected was so split that it failed to form a government. Consequently, the president, in keeping with his Constitutional prerogatives, had to set up a caretaker administration to handle the day-to-day running of the state. Now, on 14 November, Bulgarians will have to go to the ballots again, for the third time this year. They will not only have to choose their MPs, but also a new head of state, as President Rumen Radev's term in office draws to a close.

Wed, 10/27/2021 - 13:28
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police brutality bulgaria 2020

BULGARIAN POLITICS

What many Bulgarians have known all along ever since the collapse of Communism – that the police force, formerly known as People's Militia has hardly reformed itself during the past 30 years – became painfully obvious with the broadcast, in the house of parliament, of a surveillance camera video. It showed beyond any reasonable doubt that Boyko Borisov's police could be – and were – a bunch of sadistic thugs, similar to or actually worse than Todor Zhivkov's militia, rather than the law enforcement agency of an EU country they were supposed to be.

Sat, 08/28/2021 - 07:55
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BORISOV'S DOWNFALL?

Some analysts were surprised, others were not: the 11 July snap election, called in the wake of the failure of Bulgaria's 45th National Assembly to set up a government, returned more or less the same results. Boyko Borisov's GERB continues to be a large and monolithic political party if led by an increasingly erratic strongman. It was pushed into the second place by a margin of less than a percent by Slavi Trifonov's ITN, or There Is Such a People, grouping. Third comes the beleaguered BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Sat, 07/31/2021 - 18:35
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WHERE TO FROM NOW ON?

The month of June, officially the election campaign month ahead of the early ballot scheduled for 11 July, has been extraordinary even in the standard of Bulgarian politics. Hardly a day has passed without some major or minor scandal bursting out into the open. Mostly, these were caused by the revelations by the President Rumen Radev-appointed caretaker government of gross misdeeds committed by Boyko Borisov's GERB officials or by Boyko Borisov, this country strongman prime minister in 2009-2021, himself.

Mon, 06/28/2021 - 16:58
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WILL BOYKO BE GONE FOR GOOD?

Following the failure of Bulgaria's "short" parliament, which sat for less than a month, to fulfil its basic constitutional duty, form a functioning government, President Rumen Radev stepped in and appointed a caretaker administration. Though its main task is to organise the next general election, to be held on 11 July, the "caretaker" government is not as powerless as it seems. In fact, it can do everything a regular government is able to do save for actions – such as altering the state budget or concluding international treaties – that would require parliamentary approval.

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:40
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BULGARIA'S BALLOT SHOWDOWN

Most public opinion agencies got it wrong. Following a month of an exceptionally tepid (even in Bulgarian standards) election campaign, in which the coronavirus pandemic was hardly mentioned, Bulgarians went to the polls to elect their new parliament. The voter turnout was about 50 percent, which is about usual for Bulgarian elections. Bulgarians, contrary to what pollsters of all shapes and sizes had predicted, defied the coronavirus frenzy and went to cast their ballots in person, both in Bulgaria and abroad. They voted with their feet.

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 18:23
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DESPITE GAME OF MUSICAL CHAIRS...

Some media try to represent the upcoming election as a titanic battle of a major anti-Communist, pro-democracy and pro-Western establishment (Boyko Borisov's GERB) and a renegade leftist party (BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party) that stems from the erstwhile Bulgarian Communist Party, the one that ruled Communist Bulgaria with an iron fist in 1944-1989. In fact, if opinion polls are anything to go by, GERB and BSP are almost equal in size, with the GERB sometimes emerging ahead by a few percentage points, and vice versa. Significantly, neither GERB nor the BSP are particularly large.

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 19:14
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Prof Dr Kosta Kostov, MD

BULGARIAN POLITICS OF HEALTH BELIE HEALTH OF POLITICS IN BULGARIA

Professor Kosta Kostov is one of Bulgaria's leading pulmonologists. He has specialised in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, and has taught for many years at the Medical Faculty of St Kliment of Ohrid University in Sofia. Earlier in 2020 he was the chairman of the Expert Medical Council under the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, a short-lived agency designed to provide the government with professional advice how to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Dr Kostov has been in all Best Doctors lists in Bulgaria.

Thu, 12/31/2020 - 13:24
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TRAVELS IN DOGANLANDIA

A circle of privileged companies formed around whoever happens to be in power? Construction of EU-funded guesthouses that in reality are luxurious private villas? Controlled media used to smear political opponents, business competition, independent journalists and whistleblowers? If you ask the ordinary Bulgarian, one particular party has been responsible for all the troubles that have befallen Bulgaria over the past 30 years: the DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 08:28
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LIBERAL DEMOCRACY SUSTAINS FURTHER BLOWS IN BOYKO BORISOV'S BULGARIA

Yet few expected something as dramatic as that: iPhone snaps of a half-naked prime minister sleeping across his bed, a bedside cupboard full of wads of 500-euro bills. Plus several gold ingots. Plus his favourite gun positioned on top. The images, anonymously sent to several media and subsequently widely circulated to the general public, might have befitted an underworld boss after an orgy of booze, sex and gambling rather than the prime minister of an EU member state. But photos do not lie. Welcome to the bedroom of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:04
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BULGARIA, IN THE MEANTIME

Predictably, the coronavirus emergency has made all other events in what remains the EU's poorest and least free state look like insubstantial tidbits. With very few exceptions all media have focused exclusively on the alarmist press conferences of Gen Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, the military doctor who heads the emergency staff, and on the lifts Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has given to his ministers in his private jeep to inspect unfinished stretches of road.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:53
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BULGARIA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Since 13 March 2020 Bulgaria has been run by three generals and a sheriff. First and foremost comes General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski. A surgeon installed to manage the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Mutafchiyski rose to prominence when he was appointed the head of the emergency National Operative Headquarters. Neither a virologist, nor a psychologist he is seen at daily news briefings where he utilises his military schooling to give out what is in essence increasingly restrictive commands to ban citizens from moving about and gathering together.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 09:42
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BALANCING OUT IN CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Political science students all over the world are being taught in the early stages of their studies that the best way for an authoritarian government – any authoritarian government – to enhance its own powers is to use a crisis – any crisis – as a justification. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity. At a time of a huge crisis it becomes easier to take away citizens freedoms and rights not only with a couple of decrees, but also with the general public applauding from the sidelines.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 08:43
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BULGARIA'S 'DEMOCRATORSHIP'

For a few weeks last autumn Central Sofia was paralysed by mass protests. Nothing like the huge outpour of public energy that had kept the city dysfunctional for months in 2013 and resulted in bringing back Boyko Borisov to power, but still a manifestation of people's will that kept the media – and public consciousness – busy and working. The reason? The proposed appointment of Ivan Geshev for the position of chief prosecutor, the Bulgarian equivalent of the US attorney general.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 09:01
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WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA

You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hotels to qualified doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, web designers and software engineers. A trip through the Bulgarian countryside will reveal some unpleasant sites. Many villages that once thrived have been deserted, with their population in many cases numbering just a couple of elderly folk.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:49
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FOOTBALL PITCH OUTRAGE HIGHLIGHTS DEEPER PROBLEMS

Those Bulgarians old enough to remember 1994 are now appalled because in 2019 Bulgaria marked its worst ever loss, 0-6. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Sofia, at the Stalin-era national stadium called Vasil Levski.

What Europe and the world will remember of that warm October evening when Bulgaria lost 0-6 to England, however, is not the outrageous score. Europe and the world will remember what The Guardian billed a miserable occasion… in a miserable stadium against a miserable opposition played out to a miserable backdrop of recrimination and bad blood.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 14:16
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